Archive | Reliability


6:39 pm
February 10, 2017
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Infrared Inspections Of Installed Motors

By Jim Seffrin, Infraspection Institute

randmDespite the important role they play in facilities, electric motors often tend to be out of sight and out of mind—until they fail. Infrared thermography can be a cost-effective diagnostic tool for detecting problems within these systems.

Many infrared (IR) inspection programs focus on motor control circuits, but overlook the actual motors. Infrared inspections of a motor’s bearings and stator should be performed monthly by an experienced, certified IR thermographer that thoroughly understands the theory and operation of electric motors.

Here are the basic steps for performing this type of inspection:

1. Inspect motor casing for localized hotspots that may be indicative of short circuits within motor windings.

2. Qualitatively compare individual motors to similar motors under similar load.

3. When possible, qualitatively compare inboard and outboard bearings for each motor. If a large Delta T is present, it may be indicative of misalignment or a rotor balance problem. If both bearings are hot, the bearings may be worn or improperly lubricated.

4. Additionally, a thermographic inspection of the electrical connections within the motor junction box should be performed annually. This may be done in conjunction with a regularly scheduled IR inspection of the facility’s electrical system.

Because no complicated analysis is required, infrared inspections typically can be performed rapidly and at a fraction of the cost of other types of motor testing. Infrared can also detect evidence of misalignment at lower thresholds than those detectable by vibration analysis and motor-current signature analysis. MT

Words to the Wise: Stick to Facts

0217rmcinfraWhen used as a preventive/predictive maintenance tool, infrared (IR) thermography can detect and document evidence of thermal patterns and temperatures across the surface of an object. The presence of inexplicable thermal anomalies or exceptions is often indicative of incipient failures within inspected systems and structures. Because thermography alone can’t determine the cause of an exception, other diagnostic tools must be employed.

Some thermographers, however, provide opinions as to the cause of exceptions without the benefit of confirming test information. Such opinions are frequently accompanied by elaborate recommendations for repair. When those observations/recommendations are incorrect, they can cause repair efforts to be misdirected.

Unless a thermographer has performed, or has access to, confirming tests, it’s unwise to provide opinions regarding the cause of exceptions and offer suggestions for repair. Lacking confirming test data, a prudent thermographer should make only one recommendation: “Investigate and take appropriate action.”

This simple recommendation can be applied to any thermographic inspection and serves to avoid unnecessary liability by eliminating guesses and sticking to facts.

— J.S.

Jim Seffrin, a practicing thermographer with 30+ years of experience in the field, was appointed to the position of Director of Infraspection Institute, Burlington, NJ, in 2000. This article is based on one of his “Tip of the Week” posts on For more information on infrared applications, as well details on upcoming training and certification opportunities, email or visit


8:24 pm
February 9, 2017
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Listen for Impact

Above. Josh Mattson's desktop computer screen displays dB data collected from ultrasound probes that feed software to generate an oil-analysis report. Oil analysis has become a big part of reliability best practices at USG Interiors by providing insight as to when to filter oil, change oil, identify early signs of failure, or use to assist in analyzing data from other technologies such as ultrasound or vibration monitoring.

Josh Mattson’s desktop computer screen displays dB data collected from ultrasound probes that feed software to generate an oil-analysis report. Oil analysis has become a big part of reliability best practices at USG Interiors by providing insight as to when to filter oil, change oil, identify early signs of failure, or use to assist in analyzing data from other technologies such as ultrasound or vibration monitoring.

Josh Mattson drives key reliability programs using ultrasound and root-cause analysis. Continue Reading →


9:20 pm
January 13, 2017
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Choose to Fuse (And Why)

Designed as sacrificial devices in electrical systems, fuses protect costlier components in those systems from the damaging effects of overcurrent. They can also make control systems UL- and NEC-compliant.

Designed as sacrificial devices in electrical systems, fuses protect costlier components in those systems from the damaging effects of overcurrent. They can also make control systems UL- and NEC-compliant.

Fuses are sacrificial devices that help protect costlier components in an electrical system from the damaging effects of overcurrent. (They can also help make control systems UL- and NEC-compliant.) To be sure, there are many other solutions for protecting electrical gear from overcurrent, including circuit breakers and protective relays. Information from Cumming, GA-based AutomationDirect (, though, lists 10 reasons why end users also should consider fusing.

— Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

Overcurrent protective devices that have tripped are often reset without first investigating the cause of the fault. Electromechanical devices may not have the reserve capacity to open safely when a second or third fault occurs. When a fuse opens, it’s replaced with a new fuse, meaning the protection level is not degraded by previous faults.

Fuses typically are the most cost-effective means of providing overcurrent protection. This is especially true where high fault currents exist or where small components, such as control transformers or DC power supplies, need protection.

randmHigh interrupting rating
With most low-voltage current-limiting fuses (< 600 V) having a 200,000-A interrupting rating, users are not paying a high premium for a high-interrupting capacity.

Fuses have no moving parts to wear out or become contaminated by dust or oil.

North American standards
Tri-National Standards specify fuse performance and the maximum allowable fuse Ip and I²t let-through values. Peak let-through current (Ip) and I²t are two measures of the degree of current limitation that is provided by a fuse.

Component protection
The high current-limiting action of a fuse minimizes or eliminates component damage.

Extended protection
Overcurrent-protective devices, with low-interrupting ratings, are often rendered obsolete by service upgrades or increases in available fault current. Updated NEC and UL standards are fueling the need to install potentially expensive system upgrades to non-fused systems.

Fuses can be easily coordinated to provide selectivity under overload and short-circuit conditions.

Minimal maintenance
Fuses do not require periodic recalibration. That is not the case with some electromechanical overcurrent-protective devices.

Long life
As a fuse ages, the speed of response will not slow down or change. A fuse’s ability to provide protection will not be adversely affected by the passage of time. MT

Fuses 101

Fuses consist of a low-resistance metal or wire that is used to close a circuit. When too much current flows through the low-resistance element of the fuse, the element melts and breaks the circuit. This keeps the excessive current from continuing down the circuit to more expensive equipment.

For more information on a range of automation-related topics and solutions, including current-limiting fuses that meet UL and NEC codes, visit or


9:03 pm
January 13, 2017
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Teach To Learn Reliability


Reliability expert focuses on multiplying excellence through teaching, training, learning, and developing leaders.

By Michelle Segrest, Contributing Editor

Screen Shot 2017-01-13 at 2.51.13 PMThrough 20 years of experience in reliability and maintenance, one ideal has remained at the forefront for Joe Anderson. “I want to be remembered as someone who cares about people,” the reliability manager for The Schwan Food Company’s global supply chain said. “Becoming an effective leader is the ultimate story of my life.”

The reward comes when he sees someone he has mentored experience success, he said. “It’s phenomenal to see someone I have coached reach their goals. I like it even more when it happens for them than when it happens for me. I knew they could do it, and when they finally see it within themselves…it’s just the greatest feeling, especially when I see that they have improved on the systems that we put in place together.”

Anderson is considered a “fixer” in the industry. Throughout his career, organizations have hired him to create, implement, and drive new programs designed to improve reliability. He most recently drove programs at Smuckers, before beginning his newest venture with Schwan’s Salina, KS, facility. Schwan is a manufacturer of more than 40 food lines. 

Anderson was hired as Schwan’s reliability manager less than a year ago with the primary task of developing a reliability-
engineering program that is geared toward maintenance engineering. “I’m more of a turnaround guy,” the 38-year-old father of two said. “Once I get a department in compliance, I hand it off and go.” This is why developing leaders has become so important to Anderson.

Leadership development

Anderson said that the biggest challenge he faces when developing a new program for a company is dealing with culture change. “I try to get people to see that there is a whole other world of manufacturing besides the reactionary system,” he explained. “I try to get quick wins to establish buy-in. This helps to get more people on your side. Training and investment in people drives significant changes that are needed in order to see a turnaround. I spend a lot of time working with people, developing people, and trying to get them to execute on what I teach. This is what I do all day, everyday.”

Anderson said he has matured into more of a mentor than a coach. “I really strive to develop my credibility first rather than coming in and acting like I know everything,” he said. “Showing people that you care about them and their success is motivating to them. I don’t have to go and find what triggers them to do things. If they know I care about them and respect them, they are willing to do anything that is needed. That’s my goal—to get everyone to understand that I do care for them and their success and want to see them do better. I try to help them remove the obstacles that they normally perceive. Sometimes the obstacles are just perception.”

Anderson’s style did not happen accidentally. He learned about developing leaders from his mentor, consultant John Ambrose.

“There is such a lack of investment in people today. It’s something that shouldn’t exist, but it does,” he said. “John taught me that if you can learn to care about people and invest in them, you will be successful. All the leadership gurus will tell you that if you help enough people get what they want, you will get what you want.”


Anderson has worked in maintenance and reliability in the food industry since he was 18 years old. His first job was with a beef-packing plant in Holcomb, KS. He worked with the wastewater and groundskeeping systems and, as a result, began to develop some expertise in lubrication. He eventually moved into refrigeration maintenance and worked closely with ammonia systems.

“As a green 18-year-old, you learn quickly that you don’t really know anything,” he said. “So I focused on really studying and trying to understand the system. I did that for a year, then transferred to floor maintenance.”

This is where he began to work closely developing people and discovered that this would be his lifelong passion.

“I love providing solutions to problems, and in this field, it is a daily thing,” he said. “I started in maintenance and, through growth and evolution, I realized that reliability is a major piece. [It] encompasses an entire organization whereas maintenance is one specific piece of that.”

Screen Shot 2017-01-13 at 2.50.39 PM

Maintenance and reliability philosophy

Every location is different, Anderson stated, and the ultimate goal is to get each organization to a proactive best-practice level. He accomplishes this by introducing assessment tools to understand where the gaps lie.

“The gaps affect the strategy moving forward,” he explained. “Here at Schwan, a lot of it is just a basic skills gap, so we are spending a lot of time developing basic skills and getting people to understand what a proactive life looks like, versus their current reactive state. At some locations, for example at Smuckers, we had a very technical staff, so didn’t have to spend time on that, and we focused on other things.”

Anderson has developed a unique philosophy, which he often teaches to the organizations that hire him to drive change. “Many people will tell you to fix the PM program and try to launch PdM,” he stated. “I believe that PdM drives culture change when people see the value. For example, I can improve a PM on a gearbox for a mixer, but that isn’t going to help me to detect the condition of its current state. The mixer may have a $40,000 gearbox with a four-month lead time. If it fails, I’m down for four months. So fixing the PMs is not going to do anything for me.

“Instead, if I perform an oil analysis to understand the condition of the equipment, it can be a very simple win. When you understand the condition, you reduce the risk. When people see that, they start to understand.”

Best practices must be developed over time. “When you are a turnaround guy, you can’t just walk in and implement a best practice,” Anderson continued. “You have to develop the people and get them executing at a certain level. An example is precision lubrication versus the old-school method of just ‘pump it till the grease comes out.’ If they don’t understand precision lubrication, you can’t walk in and say this is a best practice. Maybe you don’t have the equipment or the training. To me, best practice is a state that you get to…it’s not necessarily something that you act on every day.”

Screen Shot 2017-01-13 at 2.50.56 PM

Maintenance as a profit center

Anderson has been a regular presenter at conferences and webinars. While his talks cover several topics, he focuses on how to identify maintenance as a profit center.

“It’s hard to believe, but 99.99% of manufacturing companies are not world class” he said. “There are 230,000 manufacturing facilities in the United States that employ more than 100 people. If you put a group in a room and asked them to name a world-class company, people could identify maybe 20 or 30 of them. This is because maintenance managers in general are promoted, glorified mechanics. They do their job well and get promoted, just like I did… through the school of hard knocks.” But, according to Anderson, they don’t necessarily understand the business side or how to show the value.

Anderson said that if you ask the CEOs at most of these facilities about the impact of maintenance, they will say that it is a cost center.

“Technically, they are using ‘cost center’ as an accounting term,” he said. “But if this is your philosophy, to me you are missing out on lots of money and lots of opportunities. One thing I do is teach maintenance managers the business side. I help them to understand how what they do in their daily activities can affect the bottom line. I show them how to reduce risk and convert that to a dollar amount to capture the cost savings. This is something that they are probably generating anyway, but they are not getting credit for the work they are doing. On the flip side, I also teach upper-level executives and operations guys the value of maintenance. I see this as a big gap, so I have focused on this.”

After almost two decades in reliability and maintenance, it was less than two years ago that Anderson decided to get his business degree. “I’ve taught myself the business side,” he said. “When I went back to school later in life to get a degree, I decided to get a degree in business rather than engineering. Years ago, when I left the beef-packing company, I went to work for a bakery. My maintenance experience at the beef-packing plant was very minimal, but I was really good at it. But I thought I was better than I was. I got into a smaller facility where I owned the storeroom. Now I had [responsibility for] electrical, facilities, and all these things where the beef plant was so big everything was departmentalized. I realized I had to lead these guys who had to be multi-talented and multi-crafted. This is when I realized I cannot be an effective leader if I can’t train and develop my guys. So, as I was learning the technical skills, I realized I can’t justify a lot of the things I’m doing because I don’t understand the business myself.”

The need to understand the business became even more apparent when he began trying to sell upper management on reliability programs and maintenance upgrades.

“I kept getting told no because I wasn’t bringing anything to the table,” he realized. “You can’t just walk in and say I need $50,000 to buy something. I was getting told no because I was not giving them a reason to say yes. Now that I understand how the business works, I can convert the language to what I know in maintenance.”

People retain 90% of what they teach and only 10% of what they hear when listening to someone teach. Because of this, he tries to reinforce his teachings by training others to teach. “We all retain things differently,” he said. “When I develop people, my goal in the end is getting them to teach me what I taught them. I live by the adage that if you don’t know something well enough to teach it, then you don’t know it at all. My goal is to explain things in a way that people can understand. When I’m developing other leaders I want them to do the same so we can multiply ourselves. I don’t want followers. I want other leaders.” MT

Michelle Segrest has been a professional journalist for 27 years, specializing in the industrial processing industries. If you know a reliability/maintenance expert who is making a difference, please send her an email at


8:49 pm
January 13, 2017
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Profiles Reveal Reliability Trends


Maintenance programs take center stage as manufacturing facilities use key trends to improve reliability.

By Michelle Segrest, Contributing Editor

In 2016, Maintenance Technology traveled from West Palm Beach, FL, to Delano, CA, covering successful reliability and maintenance programs at diverse manufacturing facilities throughout the United States. Whether manufacturing snack foods, EPS foam products, drivetrains, construction tools, air-movement equipment, pumps, energy-efficient windows, electrical wiring, oil refining, or maintaining zoo operations, the best practices for maintenance programs have evolved to include advanced technology and critical strategy.

Some key trends for 2016 include:

• culture change

• converting from a reactive to a proactive style

• leveraging continuous improvement

• driving change with powerful CMMS

• utilizing Kaizen events

• strategic planning and scheduling.

Looking ahead to 2017, Dr. Klaus M. Blache, director of the Reliability & Maintainability Center and research professor, College of Engineering, Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville, predicts that manufacturing assets will be more connected and data driven, resulting in improved operational effectiveness. 

“Greater real-time data, better learning algorithms, 3D printing, high mobility, numerous aids, and apps will mean faster and more intelligent decentralized decisions,” Blache said. “For these reasons, I think that manufacturing in 2017 has a positive outlook. However, there are some critical challenges. There is a shortage of people (leaders, engineers, trades/technicians) who are both capable and are interested in a manufacturing career. Companies also need to understand how best to align millennial interests with business needs to enable this critical part of their workforce.”

Blache said that the past 25 years provide evidence that there is no shortage of ideas, tools, or methodologies. However, more than 70% of these implementations (such as lean, reliability, and TPM) fail. “The most important thing that a company can do is to find or develop people who know how to implement with an engaged workforce.”

Maintenance Technology will continue to track effective trends and feature robust maintenance programs at manufacturing facilities in each issue in 2017. If you would like to have your facility featured, please contact Michelle Segrest at Following is an overview of some of the best practices we discovered in 2016.

Manufacturers must find ways to integrate new and old equipment while incorporating a preventive-maintenance program.

Manufacturers must find ways to integrate new and old equipment while incorporating a preventive-maintenance program.

Changing culture to increase performance

A transformation in management and culture, combined with an investment for future growth, revitalized Empire Level, a 97-yr.-old tool-manufacturing company.

Richard Gray, senior vice president and general manager of the Mukwonago, WI, company, a division of  Brookfield, WI, parent company Milwaukee Tool Corp., said that with a focus on culture, buy-in became infectious throughout Empire Level’s 120,000 sq. ft. of manufacturing space. The arrival of new equipment, upgrades to old equipment, new people, training opportunities, and efficient processes made it tangible.

“Our revitalization is not just new paint on the wall,” Gray explained. “The change is coming from within. It’s a feeling. It truly is an obsession that is built on trust. The result of these efforts is the complete transformation of a U.S.-based company through people and technology.”

Empire Level’s new management team found many opportunities to reconstruct and rebuild the company’s culture, as well as the equipment and processes. Starting with a blank canvas, the team members were able to craft their own renovation story without being crippled by processes that didn’t work. “Our biggest challenge was that we didn’t just want to fix things. We wanted to improve them and continue to grow the company,” Gray stated. “We not only had a factory full of machines and assets that were way beyond their useful life, but we didn’t have any systems in place to monitor and improve. There was no base foundation, so we started from scratch.”

The team’s first challenge was to establish a culture that would inspire ownership and empowerment among all employees. “Change is hard, and it can be especially hard for people who have been doing the same thing for many decades,” director of operations Steve Lallensack said. “We knew we needed a culture that was agile and could help our people to adapt to changes—not only changes in equipment and technology, but in attitudes and responsibilities.”

The team began with candid meetings that clearly defined the plan for growth. They made sure that employees had an understanding of what was coming so no one would be blindsided by changes they didn’t anticipate. “This gives people a feeling of ownership and helps them to feel more comfortable with the changes. We said what we were going to do, and then we did what we said we would do,” he said.


Culture change was a common theme in 2016.

In Fond du Lac, WI, three companies (Advanced Foam Plastics, Contour Products, and Heartland EPS) merged to form ACH Foam Technologies. Todd Huempfner, vice president of operations, said that with the equal partnership formation of the three companies, ACH faced the significant challenge of merging three different cultures.

“When you go through a merger like this, you must go through a cultural cleansing,” Huempfner said. “You have to marry three different systems. It’s not a revolution. It’s an evolution. At the grass-roots level, it’s all about employee engagement and communication.”

For Huempfner, a driving philosophy has remained at the forefront—an ideology from management guru Peter Drucker: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

“We focus a lot of our energy and effort around front-line employee engagement and empowerment,” Huempfner continued. “We understand the cornerstone of the roadmap to our future. Our biggest focus is building and maintaining a winning culture.”

The merging of companies and cultures is occurring in manufacturing throughout the United States.


For Ideal Industries Inc.—a manufacturer of products for the installation of electrical wiring and conduit—that merging means consolidating operations from three facilities into one new state-of-the art, 220,000-sq.-ft. facility in Sycamore, IL. Celebrating its 100th year in business, the family-owned company is undergoing a complete migration of the people, equipment, operations, and maintenance processes of three of its Midwestern facilities.

“This is a very unique opportunity,” said facilities manager Steve Challgren. “It’s not very often that you get to build a new manufacturing facility, lay it out exactly the way you want it from the start, and get an opportunity to fully overhaul all of the equipment before you move it in. Combine this with purchasing some new equipment, and then you have a chance to carefully cross train your entire internal maintenance staff as you do it.”

Ideal’s maintenance staff will become one team, which provides unique opportunities for cross training and upgrading, Challgren said. “Over time, we are moving all of the equipment to the new facility and taking it all through a quality prove-out process. We have the opportunity to do a complete overhaul before we move it. In addition, we are investing in new equipment.”

In 2016, manufacturers across the United States found challenges in changing longstanding reactive cultures to approaches that focused on taking proactive, preventive measures to build reliable programs.

In 2016, manufacturers across the United States found challenges in changing longstanding reactive cultures to approaches that focused on taking proactive, preventive measures to build reliable programs.

Switching from reactive to proactive

In a crucially competitive market, CountryMark’s Mount Vernon, IN, oil-refinery leadership team realized the operation needed a complete overhaul to streamline processes, get control of inventory, and optimize workflow. Through a carefully conceived and well-executed plan, it is making a 180-deg. switch to a predictive and preventive structure that has already increased production, decreased equipment failure, and saved costs.

“I would describe the ‘before’ maintenance program as classic reactionary—something would break and we would fix it,” said Pat Ward, CountryMark’s vice president of operations. “You can be very good at fixing things, but working in a reactive way comes at a very high cost.”

CountryMark’s leadership fully invested in a strategic WorkPlace Excellence Program. Proactive and preventive-maintenance training began several years ago with the Charleston, SC, consulting firm Life Cycle Engineering (LCE). Coaches were brought in to train leaders in four focus areas:

• operations improvement

• work management

• reliability engineering

• materials management.

Styrotek, a Delano, CA, manufacturer of expanded-polystyrene (EPS) table-grape shipping containers, incorporated a strict preventive philosophy to drive its maintenance program.

“Our idea of maintenance is not allowing our machines to break in the first place,” Styrotek production supervisor Adan Velazquez said. “We monitor the hydraulic, steam, air, and water pressures daily. We have recently begun making these checks every shift. We monitor them continuously and, when we notice there is an issue with one of them, we immediately shut it down and repair it.”

Shutdowns have become rare rather than a normal occurrence. “In the past, we were running each machine about 21 to 22 hours a day, and we would have to shut down constantly,” Velazquez said. “Today, we are able to run machines for 23 1/2 hours, and we only have to shut down a machine to change the filters.”


The shift from a reactionary to a preventive culture translates to even the smallest details.

In Niwot, CO, Alpen High Performance Products uses a robust preventive-maintenance program to manufacture highly energy-efficient windows and doors. The program includes regular lubrication of all machines, including gears and motors, calibration of the fiberglass-cutting saws, and constant attention to all equipment.

“Because everything we do here is custom, everything that goes through the machines is a different size, so they are constantly having to be adjusted and checked,” field-tech specialist David Herman said. “Every window is cut to a different size so the saw parameters are moving constantly. Saw blades need to be changed every six months. The drilling CNC machines that cut holes for the hardware latches need constant attention.”

Ideal Industries maintenance lead Don Hardt said that the overall maintenance strategy at his facility is simple. “Be proactive in identifying and preventing breakdowns before they occur,” he said. “We have a preventive-maintenance system in place that is based on time intervals. Some of the things we concentrate on, for example, are going above and beyond when we do have a failure so that the root cause of that failure can be quickly identified. We have a proactive maintenance strategy designed to catch those breakdowns and prevent them.”

A focus on predictive, rather than reactive, maintenance is nothing new in manufacturing, Hardt said, but the focus must remain at the forefront.


“By identifying key areas, especially on this custom machinery and on some of our aging machines, it allows us to keep our machines running, and it helps to extend the useful life of the equipment,” Hardt concluded.

Maintenance professionals at Hydro Inc., Chicago, a provider of pump services, know the value of combining skilled workers, smooth coordination, and continuous improvement to keep machines running. They perform preventive maintenance with mostly outside sources and work together to prevent breakdowns.

Hydro’s overall maintenance philosophy is simple, shop manager Nick Dagres said. “We want to be proactive in identifying and preventing breakdowns before they occur and keep the machines in the best operation condition at all times.”

This is accomplished with daily, weekly, and monthly preventive-maintenance checks from all of the operators at the beginning of every shift. Various metrics are used to measure overall performance and reliability. Hydro measures overall downtime for machine availability and the costs of downtime versus utilization.

The routine checklists include inspection of the switches, cables, noise levels, and especially oil levels. Lubrication is immensely important, particularly with the older machines.

Some traditional maintenance programs allow machines to run until they break or become due for maintenance. They are then handed over to the maintenance department to make the necessary repairs. In sharp contrast, the autonomous-maintenance approach allows individual operators to perform simple, safe, maintenance routines on their machines. These activities can include lubrication, bolt tightening, cleaning, inspection, and monitoring.

Precision is paramount when combining molds and pieces into one integrated product. Equipment in optimal operating condition is key.

Precision is paramount when combining molds and pieces into one integrated product. Equipment in optimal operating condition is key.

Leveraging continuous improvement

In November 2015, ACH Foam Technologies hired Brad Zenko, P.E., as director of Continuous Improvement, to enhance the company’s core competency to always strive to make its product and processes better. “Continuous improvement is not an activity, and it’s not a technique,” Zenko said. “It’s a result.”

The effort is neverending. “If you are in operations, every day is not just about what went wrong. It’s about how to keep that from happening again,” he said. “The whole idea behind predictive and preventive maintenance is continuous improvement. From a broader perspective, if you look at maintaining a competitive advantage in business, you have to really embrace continuous improvement because someone is always trying to outsmart you, out-service you, out-something you. You have to be nimble.”

This can be a difficult task, Zenko continued. “When you finally master something, you want to stop and take a deep breath. You have about ten minutes for that, and then you have to think about what’s next on the horizon. How do we make it even better? Even if you have had a really big achievement, you can’t rest on your laurels and say you are done. You never quite get there.”

Zenko operates at a corporate level, so critical improvement implementations are shared across all nine ACH facilities. He works with a team of maintenance and operations professionals and fills the pipeline with everything from simple ideas to game changers. “My job is to find ways to make our processes better, faster, cheaper.”

Trends that seem set to grow in 2017 include the use of automation and robust CMMS systems, and a focus on culture change to enhance asset reliability in plants and facilities.

Trends that seem set to grow in 2017 include the use of automation and robust CMMS systems, and a focus on culture change to enhance asset reliability in plants and facilities.

Driving change with CMMS

The maintenance program at the Fort Wayne, IN, facility of Dana Inc. is translating the power of effective data collection into equipment assets.

The company’s “four-panel maintenance programs,” inspired by the strategic use of its CMMS system, have reduced costly equipment downtime and expensive repairs that are avoided by preventive-
maintenance planning—all of which can be quantified by maintenance data.

“The role of the maintenance group is to keep the machines running, and as efficiently as possible” maintenance supervisor Bob McKenna said. “We have made a concentrated effort to gather data, compile it, understand it, and have been successful in strategically utilizing it to make better maintenance decisions. ”

Most useful, according to McKenna, has been the ability to track maintenance efficiency. “In all my years in maintenance, I had never seen a system for successfully tracking and quantifying an efficiency rate for maintenance activities,” he said. “However, we have been able to accomplish this by comparing the number of work orders that are written each day and each week with actual completion to calculate our efficiency rating. Our initial goal was 70% efficiency, which is really good for maintenance in this type of environment. We are now up to 81%.”

Dana’s maintenance transformation began in 2014 when the company incorporated a CMMS program from eMaint (Marlton, NJ, and began collecting and tracking data to help streamline its maintenance practices. Two years into the program, the positive results speak for themselves.

“We have been able to gather more precise data that is maintenance related, which has enabled us to make better maintenance decisions,” McKenna said. “We can quantify actual cost savings relating to maintenance activities to our management, which fosters an increased understanding and support of maintenance programs.”


The goal for the facility is to have 100% preventive maintenance. McKenna is convinced that the data generated from the CMMS system will help them accomplish this goal. He noted that, since the onset of the program, they have been able to quantify six-figure savings for the plant, which has helped win support at all levels of management, maintenance, and production.

In southern Florida, maintaining a 23-acre park with attractions, indoor and outdoor facilities, fountains, special exhibits, irrigation and landscaping, and more than 700 live animals—some of them deadly—requires coordination, diversity, and special tools. With a full-time maintenance staff of just six professionals, Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society facilities manager Jason Witmer must carefully coordinate the many job requests that range from checking and repairing safety latches to maintaining complex filtration systems, coolers, and HVAC equipment.

Using computerized maintenance-management software from Mapcon Technologies Inc.  (Johnston, IA), Witmer can roam the grounds and receive maintenance alerts from anywhere in the park with a mobile app that is customized to the park’s needs.

Witmer can then virtually assign the task to one of the maintenance professionals. He is also notified when the job has been completed, along with a report of the job’s details. At any time, he can retrieve data that allow him to predict future maintenance and schedule non-urgent requests.


“We use Mapcon in at least 100 different ways throughout the zoo,” Witmer said. “From the conservation aspect, we use it to keep meter readings for our electrical panels. We track our water meters and keep data of our well usage, which we have to report to the city. This is important because all of the plants on the grounds here have irrigation. One little leak can cause a lot of water usage without even knowing it for a while. We even use Mapcon in our commissary to order food for our animals.”

Witmer uses the zoo’s Mapcon CMMS program to provide monthly work orders on all of the HVAC units, which require regular filter changes. The park’s many vehicles also require routine work. These orders are generated automatically and assigned to the appropriate technician.

Manufacturers are continuously looking for a competitive edge when combining complex technology with strategic maintenance programs and robust reliability systems.

Manufacturers are continuously looking for a competitive edge when combining complex technology with strategic maintenance programs and robust reliability systems.

Using Kaizen events

Becoming a market-share leader for air-movement products doesn’t happen by accident for the Schofield, WI-based Greenheck Fan Corp. Through strategic and progressive capital investments in equipment, technology, and people, Greenheck thrives on living on the cutting edge.

“We actually live on the bleeding edge of technology,” said Greenheck’s maintenance-technology supervisor Paul Smith. “We are so fresh and progressive, we sometimes get technology that isn’t necessarily proven yet. We get the opportunity to make this happen, and it gives us an incredible advantage.”

This fearless approach to ingenuity and new ideas has led to a robust continuous-improvement program that helps the company process 20 million pounds of steel annually from just one of its 17 Schofield facilities.

The company sponsors three-to-five-day Kaizen events called “pit stops.” Maintenance manager Jim King said these events are critical in helping Greenheck employees learn about the new equipment and processes that are introduced weekly.

The company sometimes offers as many as five to 10 pit stops per week with two to 12 participants in each. “These include the aspect of 5S and are modeled after TPS,” King said. “This is all part of the original creation of our Greenheck Performance System (GPS). We do pit stops for formal 5S audits, business processes, equipment training…you name it. This is a program that’s almost 14 years old and is still going very strong. It is well supported and just part of the culture
here now.”

Greenheck moves fast with new technology, Smith said, and getting the team up to speed as quickly as possible is crucial. The pit stops are effective in accomplishing this goal.

“Whether it’s equipment addition, equipment removal, or an equipment move, we sometimes get one of these per day,” Smith said. “For example, we recently moved several of our large CNC turret punches from several different facilities globally to even their workload and extend their life. That would be a yearlong, planned event for some companies. For us, it’s a Thursday.”

The pit stops are well supported by the company. “We have a team of people here to train on lean manufacturing, on TPM, business processes, process flow, and to coach events—ultimately to drive the GPS initiative forward,” Smith said. “Any employee can participate in training, learn at several different levels, and get certifications. This is a tremendous resource and investment for our company.”

Having a carefully constructed plan for maintenance is a key to consistency when multiple manufacturing facilities are producing the same product from many locations.

Having a carefully constructed plan for maintenance is a key to consistency when multiple manufacturing facilities are producing the same product from many locations.

Strategic planning and scheduling

At the one million-sq.-ft. Frito-Lay manufacturing facility in Perry, GA, the operations teams work closely with the 100 maintenance professionals on five specialized teams to ensure the production stays in constant motion. Director of maintenance and engineering Craig Hoffman said that strategic planning and scheduling is the core ingredient in the facility’s ability to stay on track. He teaches planning classes to all Frito-Lay employees.

“I always cite the example of changing oil in the car,” he said. “Most people tell you put the car up on blocks, drain the old oil, then put in the new oil. When I change the oil, I go into my shop first and make sure I have the oil filter. I make sure I have the oil. I make sure my jack is in good condition, and I have jack stands for safety. Then I make sure it is time to change the oil. A lot of people tear right into a project without having the right parts or the right information to do the job. To me, this is all about planning.”

The work comes from the facility’s preventive-maintenance system. Operators provide insight on how their machines are running. Then the maintenance team maps out a plan to restore the equipment to the optimal operating condition. When the plan is set, they schedule and execute it.

“If you don’t have a plan, you have no control,” Hoffman said. “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

Even though it is a low percentage of the time, unplanned maintenance also happens, according to Jim Northcutt who is in charge of all maintenance and engineering for Frito-Lay’s 36 North American facilities. He coordinates the facility maintenance managers from the corporate office in Plano, TX, and executes a streamlined maintenance approach across all facilities.

Planning and scheduling is supported with an in-depth PM system, along with highly upgraded technology such as vibration analysis and ultrasound, and carefully crafted predictive-maintenance processes.

For corrective work, the plant’s planners and schedulers go to the storage area and check out several parts and then kit them for the mechanics, Hoffman said. Then jobs are reviewed with the mechanics.

“The key here is to make our mechanics as successful as possible by giving them the right equipment, the right parts, and the right tools to maximize wrench time,” he said. “This way, when they are out on the floor they have everything they need. It eliminates travel time back and forth and maximizes our ability to perform corrective work and keep our plant in a reliable state.”

The planning and scheduling foundation translates across all North American facilities, Northcutt said. “If you look at it in its most simplistic terms, we plan it, we schedule it, we execute it,” he said. “As a company, throughout all facilities, planning and scheduling is what we hang our hat on.” MT

Michelle Segrest has been a professional journalist for 27 years. She specializes in the industrial processing industries and has toured manufacturing facilities in 37 cities in six countries on three continents.


7:03 pm
January 13, 2017
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Don’t Wait For Hydraulics Failure

Fig. 1. The cavitation that caused this piston pump to fail catastrophically, to the point of melting the piston shoes, could have been detected weeks in advance through sound predictive maintenance.

Fig. 1. The cavitation that caused this piston pump to fail catastrophically, to the point of melting the piston shoes, could have been detected weeks in advance through sound predictive maintenance.

Leverage predictive tools and techniques to keep hydraulic equipment operating at peak efficiency.

Industries spend countless dollars each year to repair hydraulic equipment. Many times, hydraulic-component failures don’t hit service-interruption triggers, i.e., specified hours of lost production or dollars worth of damaged equipment, and pose no safety or environmental impact. Thus, problems can go virtually unnoticed, until it’s too late. Traditional hydraulics maintenance practices are of the run-to-failure variety, meaning that a component is replaced and the machine is returned to service without any documentation as to what caused the problem, which, accordingly, can recur.

Consider the detail of a piston pump that is shown in Fig. 1. Cavitation resulting from a restriction on the inlet line caused the unit to fail catastrophically—to the point that the piston shoes melted. This failure could have been easily detected weeks in advance through one of three proven condition-monitoring approaches:

• making a thermal image of the pump inlet

• using ultrasonics to listen for cavitation bubbles

• placing a vacuum gauge in the inlet line of the pump and monitoring for minute changes.

Since hydraulic-component failures often don’t hit service-interruption triggers and pose no safety or environmental impact, they can go virtually unnoticed, until it’s too late.

Since hydraulic-component failures often don’t hit service-interruption triggers and pose no safety or environmental impact, they can go virtually unnoticed, until it’s too late.

These types of predictive technologies, coupled with practical reliability principles and strategies, can help plant personnel quickly identify failure modes in hydraulic systems, appropriately communicate that information, and prevent premature failures and unwanted downtime. The question is, if, as Merriam Webster defines it, “maintenance is the act of maintaining or the state of being maintained,” why are so many of today’s maintenance technicians spending so much of their time working on failed hydraulic systems after the fact?

Repairing and replacing equipment, changing out parts, turning knobs, and troubleshooting are examples of “failure based” activities. A more effective use of technician and machine-operator time would be for them to regularly engage in “improvement-based” activities such as looking and listening for problems before equipment fails. That, of course, requires predictive-maintenance (PdM) routes.

Build meaningful PdM routes

When it comes to building meaningful PdM routes for hydraulic equipment, we first must understand how these systems are supposed to operate and how they can fail to perform their intended function in a circuit, down to the component level. To paraphrase one industry rule of thumb, a clear operating context forms the basis for all of a plant’s reliability efforts. 

Fig. 2. This schematic of a hydraulic-equipment circuit provides a clear operating context for the system. That context, in turn, forms the basis for all reliability efforts associated with the equipment.

Fig. 2. This schematic of a hydraulic-equipment circuit provides a clear operating context for the system. That context, in turn, forms the basis for all reliability efforts associated with the equipment.

The schematic in Fig. 2 details a typical operating context and how it applies to hydraulic-system reliability and service life. Let’s consider one item in the circuit—the hydraulic cylinder—in terms of predictive maintenance. It’s been designed to extend 12 in. in 8 sec., using 3 gal./min. (gpm) of pump flow, and operate at 1,200 psi. These design parameters represent four things that can be measured, trended, and compared to a target during this one machine function.

In the above scenario, what would be considered a functional failure and how could we measure it?

The hydraulic cylinder doesn’t extend at all, due to lack of pump flow to the cylinder, which is caused by an improperly set relief valve, allowing the pump flow to return to the reservoir. The situation could be a result of an operator adjusting the system’s relief valve to a setting below the 1,200 psi required to move the load and, thus, changing the entire machine operation.

As shown in Fig. 2, if a flow meter is installed on the discharge of the hydraulic pump and another flow meter installed on the return line of the relief valve to the reservoir, we can instantly see where oil is going. Without such monitoring devices, we play a guessing game with regard to a very simple problem that could result in many hours of downtime.

Predictive technologies, coupled with practical reliability principles and strategies, can help personnel prevent premature failures and unwanted downtime.

Predictive technologies, coupled with practical reliability principles and strategies, can help personnel prevent premature failures and unwanted downtime.

With effective PdM routes, during normal operation, a quick look at the pump-discharge flow meter would allow personnel to know whether the required pump discharge flow of 3 gpm is actually leaving the unit. Any variance in this number should prompt use of other monitoring devices to identify the root cause and develop a plan to deal with the problem before a component failure occurs. After all, decreased pump-discharge flow could have many causes, including the previously mentioned restriction on the pump inlet (cavitation). Monitoring can be done with a vacuum gauge located at the pump inlet. (Many people are unaware that a strainer/filter is typically located in the reservoir at the pump inlet. As the strainer becomes clogged over time from normal wear and debris, the vacuum pressure will rise, showing a potential problem.)

Another cause would be excessive internal wear of the pump. Over time, the pistons move in and out of the barrel, causing internal wear that opens the clearances and allows the internal leakage rate to increase. This movement of oil from high to low pressure will cause excessive heat that can be identified using thermal imaging. Trending the case temperature will reveal a slight rise over time and point to this potential problem. (Adding a flow meter to the case drain line of the piston pump would also allow personnel to see an increased leakage rate.)

The fact is that, unless a plant has condition-monitoring devices installed on its hydraulic systems, technicians and operators will always be in a reactive, or firefighting, mode.

Develop reliability scorecards

Given the fact that reliability in industry is based on measuring and improving, among other things, maintenance practices, equipment service life, and production processes, scorecards can be very effective tools.

Before a site can develop reliability scorecards, its reliability engineer, or team, and the production manager must first determine target-operating parameters. This will establish a baseline from which everything will be measured. While some facilities are willing to endure variances in their operating cycle times, some cannot due to tight production schedules and the need to produce specified numbers of products per hour.

With the increasingly complex hydraulic systems operating at many sites, highly detailed reliability scorecards, posted on the equipment with which they’re associated, can be especially valuable for plant personnel. Such information can trump the often-vague PdM checklists that OEMs and suppliers may recommend.

With the increasingly complex hydraulic systems operating at many sites, highly detailed reliability scorecards, posted on the equipment with which they’re associated, can be especially valuable for plant personnel. Such information can trump the often-vague PdM checklists that OEMs and suppliers may recommend. (Click to enlarge.)

Table I is an example of a typical reliability scorecard. In it, all operating parameters are spelled out in detail. Posted on the equipment to which it applies, this information should allow personnel to clearly understand what the machine is designed to do, as well as when it is not serving its intended design purpose and has functionally failed.

Such scorecards give operators and maintenance teams (including PdM technicians) the answers to four crucial questions:

• What do I check?

• What do I check with?

• Where do I check?

• What should I expect to read?

The increasing complexity of hydraulic systems and often-vague PdM checklists that many OEMs and suppliers recommend make the explicit information in these reliability scorecards ever more valuable for plant personnel.

Words to the wise

Sites that are truly seeking better ways to manage their hydraulic systems and, in the process, eliminate problems that could result in catastrophic failures, would do well to adopt these predictive-maintenance strategies. They can help increase a plant’s profitability by removing the avoidance costs of what it’s currently spending on repairs and send the savings back to the bottom line. MT

Information in this article was provided by Paul Craven, CFPHS. Craven manages one of Motion Industries’ (Birmingham, AL) repair shops in Pensacola, FL. Certified by the International Fluid Power Society as a Fluid Power Hydraulic Specialist, he has worked in the field for 25+ years. For more information, visit


8:05 pm
October 19, 2016
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Day Two At SMRP 2016 With Maintenance Technology’s Editors


Contributing editor Michelle Segrest and editorial director Gary L. Parr return for a second day of extensive SMRP conference coverage. This record-setting conference has been filled with excellent presentations, enthusiastic attendees, and a large number of exhibitors ready to help reliability and maintenance professionals solve problems and move their operations to the world of reliability. Listen to Michelle and Gary discuss the second day of SMRP 2016 here:


Our coverage today also includes several interviews with exhibitors; an interview with Marc Cote, SMRP presenter and our November Voice from the Field; numerous attendees sharing what they have learned at the conference; a brief chat with Rebekah Wojac, president of Maintenance Excellence Roundtable; and an exchange with Maintenance Technology columnist Klaus Blache about his Univ. of Tennessee Reliability and Maintainability Center. If you weren’t able to attend this year’s SMRP Conference, we hope that the our coverage of the show, today and yesterday, will help you experience at least a small amount of what this annual event for reliability and maintenance professionals has to offer.

Marc Cote is Director of Maintenance and Engineering at C.B. Fleet Laboratories. He was the presenter of a training session on “Performance Metrics That Matter” at the 24th Annual SMRP Convention in Jacksonville, FL. During his presentation, Cote demonstrated best practices for managing and training people, materials management, workload management, and asset reliability. He showed how identifying key performance indicators and measuring them effectively can enhance any reliability program. This exclusive video interview highlights some of the main takeaways from his presentation. You can read more about Cote and his maintenance and reliability success in Maintenance Technology’s “Voice from the Field” feature in the November issue.

Editorial director Gary L. Parr interviews Klaus Blache, director of the Reliability & Maintainability Center at the Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville. Klaus talks about the center’s various programs, what it offers to students at three levels, and the various events they offer in conjunction with the program. For more information, contact him at

Editorial director Gary L. Parr interviews Rebekah Wojak, president of the Maintenance Excellence Roundtable, to learn about that organization, its activities, and its efforts to increase membership.